How to Clean Battery Terminals?- A 5 Simple Steps

Car battery corrosion is one of the main causes of decreased battery life and performance. Not only can built-up battery corrosion prevent your vehicle from starting, which would be a hassle in the morning when you’re heading to work but it can lead to a number of other issues, including damage to the vehicle’s air conditioning and electrical wiring.

Luckily, car battery corrosion is easy to spot. Very often, and especially with older batteries, you will start to notice a white, green, or blue-tinged covering around your vehicle’s battery terminals, battery posts, or battery cables. This build-up of chemical garbage reduces the conduciveness of the battery and leads to a transient current flow, which is a fancy way of saying that it can result in a malfunctioning battery due to electrical resistance.

Keeping your vehicle battery clear of corrosion promotes an extended battery life and battery performance. But fear not! The process of cleaning battery corrosion is straightforward and simple and can be done by anyone.

How To Clean Battery Terminals?

1. Locate the Battery

Most car batteries are located underneath the hood and are on the left or right side of the engine bay. With some models, such as the Chevrolet Cobalt, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and the BMW 5 Series, the battery is located in the trunk.

In other vehicles like the Grand Cherokee, Audi A7, Ford Transit, or Mercedes ML the battery is located under one of the front seats. Some Dodge vehicles even place the battery behind the front wheel inner fender liner. If you can’t find your battery, consult your owner’s manual.

2. Lift the Terminal Covers

Plastic or rubber covers protect most batteries and must be removed to access the clamps that connect the cables to the terminals. In some cases, a buildup of residue, identified as a white powder, may need to be cleared away. Don’t forget to put on a pair of work gloves and don your safety glasses.

3. Disconnect the Car Battery

Each clamp fastened to the terminals must be disconnected. You will do this by loosening the negative clamp first, followed by the positive clamp. The clamps are commonly held on via bolts and nuts.

If excess corrosion is present, you may need to use metal pliers to disconnect the terminal from the batterer post. If the terminal is really stuck, you may need to try a special tool called a battery terminal puller.

While working on the battery, avoid touching other metal objects, such as the frame of the car, otherwise, you risk shorting out the battery.

4. Choose Your Cleaning Agent

When it comes to cleaning the car battery, you have a choice of two cleaning agents. The most common one is baking soda. Here, you will mix two tablespoons of baking soda with an equal amount of water in a clean container.

Stir the solution to form a paste, then use a toothbrush to apply the paste to each terminal. The solution will begin to sizzle as it interacts with the corrosion. Use a wire brush to remove the remaining residue. Alternately, you can use a cola product to clean the terminal.

Simply obtain one new, 12-ounce can. Then, evenly pour the entire contents directly on the battery terminals to get the job done. The advantage here is that you don’t need to make a paste. Just follow up with the wire brush, if necessary.

5. Rinse and Dry

With the terminals now nearly free of residue, you’ll need to remove the paste or soda to finish cleaning. A spray bottle containing water will do; simply wash each terminal to remove the dregs. Then, use a rag and dry each terminal. Lastly, spray battery terminal protector on each post to curtail future corrosion.

6. Reconnect the Clamps

Connect the positive clamp first, followed by the negative clamp. However, if you notice residue, clean it off before reattaching. Use a wrench to tighten as needed. Lastly, put the rubber or plastic covers over each junction. Your work is done, the battery is clean and you’re ready to put your tools, cleaning agents, and gloves away.

Maintaining your car’s battery should help keep it in sound working condition until it’s ready to be replaced. The average life of a car battery is about four years; therefore, it should be tested with a multimeter on occasion. Hot weather is its biggest enemy and will degrade a battery faster.

Related Article: How To Charge A Car Battery?

cleaning battery terminals

How To Clean Battery Terminals with Stuff You Already Have?

By cleaning your battery terminals, you can actually help the car battery perform stronger, longer! We’ll show you how to clean the terminals and help prevent car battery corrosion in only FIVE steps – with materials you probably already have at home like Protective gloves, like dish gloves, Baking soda, Water, Old toothbrush, Rag, Petroleum jelly.

1. Mix Up Your Homemade Battery Cleaner.

The recipe is simple. Mix one tablespoon of baking soda into one cup of water, and stir it together until it’s thoroughly mixed.

2. Undo the Cables from The Battery and Inspect It.

Make sure your engine is off. Pop opens your hood and removes the negative battery cable first. Then the positive cable is attached to your battery. Some batteries may be in the trunk or under a seat. (Turn to your owner’s manual for more information.) Then, assess your battery.

Buildup, battery corrosion, and grime on the terminals can greatly impact your engine and battery performance.

3. Dip A Toothbrush in Your Cleaner and Start Scrubbing!

Grab an old toothbrush, dip it in your baking soda cleaner, and start scrubbing the terminals. This will take a little bit of elbow grease and you’ll need to continuously clean off the toothbrush as you work. Clean the terminals thoroughly, until all of the buildups have been removed. Do not put the toothbrush back in the bathroom!

4. Rinse Off the Residue with Water and Dry.

After you’ve removed all of the corrosion and dirt from the terminals, give the battery a quick rinse. Fill up a spray bottle with a bit of water and spray down the terminals. If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can also wipe everything down with a damp rag. Then, use another rag to dry the terminals completely.

5. Rub Petroleum Jelly onto The Terminals and Reattach the Cables.

Once the terminals are dry, dab a bit of petroleum jelly onto them. This will lubricate them, help prevent further corrosion, and help strengthen the connection. Reattach the positive and negative cables, and you’re all set! Be careful, too much petroleum jelly can cause a poor connection.

Related Article: How to Jump-Start a Car?

Take Safety Precautions

The potassium hydroxide that leaks from batteries are a corrosive material that is highly toxic. The caustic material can cause skin irritation and damage your eyes. It can also cause respiratory problems.

Always take the following precautions when cleaning batteries.

  • Avoid contact with your skin. Make sure to wear rubber or latex gloves.
  • Keep your eyes safe by wearing safety glasses.
  • Make sure the area is well ventilated.
  • If the potassium hydroxide makes contact with your skin, flush the area well with water.

Keeping your car battery clean can help get things moving when your car won’t start and the battery flow is weak. Staying on top of your battery’s charge is crucial to avoid getting stranded.


What can I use to clean battery terminals?

Grab an old toothbrush, dip it in your baking soda cleaner, and start scrubbing the terminals. This will take a little bit of elbow grease and you’ll need to continuously clean off the toothbrush as you work. Clean the terminals thoroughly, until all of the buildups have been removed.

How do you clean corrosion off battery terminals?

Apply baking soda over the entire area that’s affected by corrosion. This will neutralize the battery acid. Add a small amount of water to activate the baking soda and cause a chemical reaction which will remove the corrosion. Clean and dry the area with a paper towel, and clean up any residue using a scrub sponge.

Can you use vinegar to clean battery terminals?

For that reason, it’s wise to clean a battery leak with a mild household acid like vinegar or lemon juice. Both liquids work to neutralize the alkaline discharge. Place a drop of vinegar or lemon juice onto the corroded area, then wait a minute or two for the neutralizing effect to take place.

Can you use wd40 to clean battery terminals?

Spray WD-40 on each of the battery terminals and cable connections if they’re also covered in grime. Leave it for a few minutes, scrub it with the brush, and rinse with hot water. Repeat this step till the corrosion is gone.

How do you clean battery connections?

To neutralize the acid, you need to add a baking soda paste to the terminals. Either coat the terminals in baking soda, then spritz water on them, or mix the paste beforehand and apply it to the terminals. Let it sit and bubble for a while to neutralize the corrosion, then wipe the terminals clean with a paper towel.

Does corrosion drain car battery?

Without proper attention, your car’s battery can corrode, possibly leaving you without a working car. Corrosion can drain the power out of a battery and shorten its life. Battery corrosion is typically apparent at the terminals, a problem that can be resolved by careful cleaning.

Can you use Coke to clean battery terminals?

You can even get rid of an anthill by liberally dousing the area with Coke. Coke can be used to clean car battery terminals; the slight acidity does not react with battery acid, so you can pour it over the battery and let it wash away the corrosion.

What causes buildup on battery terminals?

Corrosion occurs when the battery acid reacts with the metal terminals. It is brown, white, or blue/green in color. Sulfation occurs when lead sulfate crystals build up on the battery terminal because the battery is not maintaining an It is usually grey in color.

How do you clean battery terminals without baking soda?

Prepare the vinegar solution for cleaning the car battery terminals. Submerge and bathe the battery terminals with the prepared vinegar. Let them sit for a while before wiping them down with spritzes of water. Let them air dry completely before reattaching the cables into the battery.

Does vinegar eat battery corrosion?

After the batteries are removed, you will need to clean the corrosion from the device in question. Do this with cotton swabs or a toothbrush dipped in vinegar or lemon juice. The acid from these will help dissolve the corrosion from the device.

Does baking soda and vinegar clean battery terminals?

If you find yourself dealing with extra stubborn corrosion that doesn’t come off with just baking soda, try the baking soda and vinegar method to clean your battery terminals. Vinegar is a powerful acid that can break down corrosion pretty quickly when combined with the fizzing action of the baking soda.

Can you clean battery terminals while connected?

Dip a cotton swab into the baking soda mixture. Smear the baking soda paste onto the battery connections and the 2 terminals at the end of each battery using the cotton swab. Once the baking soda is applied, you may see it bubble and foam, as it reacts with the corrosion. Let it soak in for about 5 minutes.

What grease do you put on car battery terminals?

The best and the most recommended grease to put on battery terminals to protect them from corrosion is silicone dielectric grease. Dielectric grease prevents acid vapors and water from getting inside contacts making them corrode.

Does pouring Coke on car battery get rid of corrosion?

The Coke will bubble and eat away at the rust and corrosion. The acid in Coke will neutralize the corrosion on the battery and cables. When the Coke has finished bubbling, take a wire brush and brush away any corrosion that is stuck around bolts or any other hard-to-reach areas.

What drains car battery when off?

What may drain a car battery when it’s off are things such as interior lights, door lights, or even bad relays. While your engine runs, the alternator recharges the battery, which is why you typically don’t have to worry about the battery dying while you’re blasting the radio on your drive to work!

How do you stop a car battery from draining when not in use?

If so, here are some things you can do to save your car battery when it’s not in use.

  1. Use a trickle charger or battery conditioner.
  2. Avoid turning your car on and then off again.
  3. Avoid short journeys.
  4. Drive your car for 15-20 minutes at a time.
  5. Alternate trips if your household has more than one vehicle.

Do I need to disconnect battery to clean corrosion?

You can actually get rid of corrosion on car battery very easily. Just carefully disconnect the cables, apply your cleaning solution, scrub off the corrosion, rinse, dry the battery, apply a corrosion preventive substance, then reconnect the cables.

Does corrosion mean bad battery?

In fact, corroded battery terminals are one of the most common causes of electrical problems and decreased battery performance in cars. But just because corrosion is common, it doesn’t mean you should settle for poor battery performance.

Why does my car battery keep corroding?

So, what exactly is battery corrosion? Corrosion happens on the battery terminals when hydrogen gas is being released from the acid in the battery. This acid mixes with other things in the air under the hood of your vehicle, causing the corrosion you can see.

What problems can corrode battery terminals cause?

If any corrosion develops along with the battery terminals, this may interfere with the connection and the vehicle may have trouble starting. This can be caused by corroded or even loose battery terminals. The vehicle may experience difficulty starting, slow cranking, or rapid clicking when the key is turned.

What can I spray on battery terminals to prevent corrosion?

After removing the terminals, you can apply anti-corrosion washers or a small amount of dielectric grease on your battery’s posts. Another great anti-corrosion chemical is the AMSOIL heavy-duty metal protector, which can also be used to prevent rust.